Just getting started? Here are 7 ideas for successJul 22, 2020
Join Tiffany and Beth as they share 7(ish) ideas for how to set yourself up for success as a freelancing parent. We dive into how to set appropriate expectations within the context of your family's needs, how to determine what kind of services to offer, examples of how your journey may unfold, encouragement that it's all going to work out, how to set yourself apart in the freelancing world, and practical tips on next steps you can take to get started.
Full Episode Summary
Oftentimes there comes a moment where a freelancer is pushed out of the “nest” of a steady job and is forced to fly. Sometimes this is a decision they get to make, and other times it’s forced upon them.
For Kenza Founder and Creator, Tiffany, she came to a tipping point where she felt like she had to do this in order to create the future she wanted for her family. She had always resisted this path, but when she was honest with herself, she knew that she would someday find herself here.
In the midst of a global pandemic with so much uncertainty, this may be a decision that you have to make, even if this is not a path you ever really considered. You might be finding yourself in a situation where you’ve been laid off, or working a full time job while providing childcare is simply untenable.
It’s time to take back control over how you spend your time and energy.
No matter who you are or how you’ve gotten to this place, we (Tiffany and Beth) want to share our top 7 action items/pieces of advice, in no particular order, that will help you create a firm foundation as you make this leap.
This advice is applicable not just to people getting started, but also to those who maybe need to take a step back and work on their business a little bit. Much of it is advice that they wish they had gotten when they were just getting going.
We hope that this advice from Beth and Tiffany helps you to avoid some unnecessary stress and worry, and helps you feel more confident as you take the first steps toward freelancing.
Figure Out What You’ll Offer, Then Let That Evolve
In a previous life, I couldn’t see myself as a freelancer because my set of skills wasn’t in that neat, labeled box like a designer, developer, writer, bookkeeper, etc. I’m more of a generalist. Ultimately, that didn’t matter, and in fact, that actually worked to my advantage.
What I did was take a look at my full skillset and figure out what I actually like doing, what I’m good at, and also what I could quickly start to sell. For me, that was freelance project management. Maybe you can look back at your work history and pinpoint a job that you really enjoyed: figure out why you liked it, what skills you learned, and then maybe build an offering from that.
Be creative, and know that you don’t have to fit in a specific box (or stay in that box as you evolve) to make this happen. If you’re more of a generalist like me, this can actually be quite lucrative. Embrace it! You may have a skill or skills that you know you can do and have experience in, but you also may realize it’s not something you want to do forever. That’s ok. You may be able to use this as a starting point to get a few clients or projects and just get going, and then you can let it evolve over time. Remember, you’re in control now. You get to write, and rewrite, your job description. Lean into that.
Not only does this approach keep you happy, it also keeps your client happy.
Happy clients are long-term clients!
I discovered that almost no matter what you offer, if you can come in to a company and be a team-player, a great communicator, show enthusiasm for the brand and mission, provide a high-level of professionalism, come through on what you say you’ll do, and be willing to go above and beyond (within reason of course)... then you will have a happy, long-term client. Sometimes, you just need to get your foot in the door, and you’ll be surprised at where that may lead you.
Right now, when people have so much on their plates, bringing in a freelancer who doesn’t need much oversight or guidance can make lives easier. You can basically transcend the workplace structure, and what may have started as a short-term gig can evolve into something with a steadier, longer cash flow for your business.
So remember, your soft skills and your ability to just get it done at a high level can go a long way! Don’t underestimate that!
Find support, Digitally and In-Person
Finding like-minded people who are going through the same things you are is critical.
Coworking spaces, online communities, friends you can trust, Meetups (when we can do that again, in person), etc. are all resources we need as freelancers and small business owners. It can be a lonely journey sometimes. So don't be afraid to share your story and hear from others. It’s okay not to know everything, and it’s often better to not know everything.
When I was getting started, I had another self-employed friend, and we talked regularly about how scary it was, how stressful it can be, etc., but we were also always able to remind one another: YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS! We all need that as freelancers, to help push us and challenge us when we’re low on motivation or having a tough time.
Figure out who your moral supporters are. Tune out your naysayers, and find your network of folks who get it. Cultivate these relationships with other self-employed people, so that you can lean on one another when you’re having a rough patch or feeling scared. Surround yourself with smart people, not jealous people. Keep in mind, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose wisely.
Never Stop Learning. Follow Your Curiosity.
As the world evolves right now, and as the freelancing and remote working lifestyle becomes more popular and accepted, now is the time to find what you love, or explore what you’re curious about, and make a plan to do it! There are SO MANY people and companies out there that need your unique perspective, skills, and can-do attitude. Have fun, stay open to new possibilities, and don’t put yourself in a box. Take that online course you’ve been contemplating, subscribe to podcasts (like this one!), and immerse yourself in whatever it is you’re interested in. Become an expert.
This also applies to educating yourself about yourself.
What are some limiting mindsets you may have? What’s your relationship with money like? How are you handling your expectations not being met with clients? How are you showing up for them, for yourself, and your family? As you go off on your own, the sense of freedom and excitement really is fun. For me, I’ve opened a new chapter in my life by wanting to get clear around who I am, and what I want for my life. As you work to improve yourself, you will find that it translates directly to how you run your business and show up for your clients.
Stamp out avoidable stress as much as you can. To do that, you need training and education, about your chosen subject matter, and about yourself. Don’t ever stop investing in yourself.
Want to learn more about how to prevent avoidable stress? Check out our free resource: The Capacity Planning Tool!
Understand the Basics of Finance
Understand the flow of money. Money is going to come in and out, try to understand your cash flow (I’ll have more on this soon!), and figure out how much you need to meet all of your financial goals. Sometimes, you may need to do other work to pay the bills, and that is okay; be flexible.
Remember to set aside around 33% for taxes (see 5 Tax Basics for U.S. Freelancers). That money is not yours, stick it is a separate account. Just make sure you’re covered, and live within your means. Be careful and be smart. Be gracious with yourself. You will figure this out. We can help and there are other resources out there that can help. Other people are often happy to answer your questions and support you. Do your homework and empower yourself!
Be Realistic With Your Time
Sit down and look at your calendar; talk to your partner. Figure out when you can actually get uninterrupted work done. Make sure this is realistic before you start selling your services. You don’t want to end up like me in the beginning where I overbooked myself because I didn’t take the time to figure this out first. As you all know, this is what I call preventable stress, and it’s the worst kind of stress!
You may only have 10 hours in a week of uninterrupted time. That’s ok, start there. Be realistic. You will get better, and more efficient. You will find ways to streamline and juggle. Like anything, it takes practice.
Lastly is something that I wish someone had told me when I first started this journey: if you’re new to this, remember that this is a transition. Your family is shifting to a new lifestyle. Your schedule is different. Your expectations have to evolve. You are breaking the mold of what a lot of us were taught to think our lives would look like. You may go through a period of time where this feels messy and uncomfortable. But keep at it. Identify where you need to learn and grow, and do it. Remember that you will get through this period, and that transitions and change take a little bit of time to settle in. You can do this.
Set Goals and Intentions
As you are starting your business, you are going outside of traditional rules and expectations, but you still need some structure! What is your 3-5 year plan? How do you get there? Keep in mind, everyone’s 3-5 year plan changes. Be flexible, but have a plan and a structure to work from.
If you are not meeting the financial goals you set, see what other ways you can bring money into your household by working with other small businesses in your network. When I first started my accounting business, I sometimes helped my catering friend with her business. I learned new things, met new people, and brought extra cash in at the same time. You make the structure but be prepared to evolve, and be patient and gracious with yourself! Allow your assumptions to be challenged
Goals also include your end-game: what is your exit strategy? It’s a weird question, but it’s something important to think about. For me, I am fine using my 25 years of experience and wisdom to help others for the foreseeable future. Think about your business, and if you’ll still want to be doing it in 10 years. Think about what you’d do with your clients if your offering evolves in another way; your product/service will definitely evolve. What I do now is so different from what I did when I started, but if I look back, it was a natural trajectory. Have your intentions and goals defined for yourself and business, from end-to-end.
Take the Time to Set Up Your Online Presence
It’s really important to make sure that your online presence is established, consistent, professional, and clear, especially in times like these when you may not be able to meet someone in person before you start working together. Lock down your social accounts if you don’t want clients seeing it, and Google your name to see what comes up so you can manage this.
Create a website - keep it simple, and to the point. Get testimonials if you can, from coworkers, colleagues, etc., and offer to do the same for them. Be clear with your messaging and what you offer. Create a portfolio, if that’s appropriate. Update your LinkedIn and periodically check out what’s out there. Determine whether or not you’re going to manage a social media account for your business. This might be something for a “phase 2” of your business once you get a firm footing. Make sure you have a strategy and that your efforts are going to bring in business. It’s ok to not do social media for your business (unless your business is social media marketing...then you should probably have a presence ;-).
This is important: DON’T put your rates online!
For some, this may make sense, but keep in mind your rates will change. People may read into your rates in ways you won’t them to. Your ability to price a project based on the value you bring is paramount, and you don’t want to paint yourself in a corner if your rates are online. You can make your own decisions for your business, but I really caution you around this. As Beth notes, in negotiations, the first person to throw out a number loses! You want to be able to base pricing off of specific parameters, and those will likely change from client to client.
Beth’s Final Tip
In the word WISDOM are wise and dumb. Stay at the wise end of the spectrum. Give back as you build your business and be gracious to the world, and be part of your community. Give away some information, but not all of it. You’re becoming an expert, tell people enough about what you know, so they understand why they should hire you.
Resist the urge to go back to the rat race, even when it’s hard and you hear your friends talking about their big jobs. Some day, they will be done with those jobs, and you will still be running your own company, living a lifestyle that truly works for you and your family. Later you will reflect on how smart you were. I know when I first started, someone told me to stick it out, and they were absolutely right!
Tiffany’s Last Word
There are a lot of things we didn't go into here, but this is a great start. We’ll continue to touch on this topic in various podcasts, and we’ll be diving deeper in our online courses. But we hope that this is helpful for you as you begin to think of where to start!